Menstrual cramps

The different types of period pain

There are two different types of period pain:
Primary dysmenorrhoea

This commonly occurs in teenage girls and young women, towards the beginning of menstrual life. The cramping pains are caused by the womb contracting to shed its lining. There may also be pain caused by the decreased supply of blood to the womb. The pain is mainly in the lower part of the abdomen but can go into the back and down the front of the thighs. Some women feel nauseated at the same time. It is a perfectly natural condition and for many women is simply a mild monthly discomfort. Primary dysmenorrhoea can be eased with the contraceptive pill as well as some relaxation techniques.

It is the kind of menstrual or period pain found in younger woman.
So, if there is no ovulation, there can be no period pain of this kind.
Primary dysmenorrhoea in it self is thus not an illness. Things that can predispose a woman to having this kind of pain include

  • Similar pain in mother or sister
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Secondary dysmenorrhoea
This is period pain commonly found in older women above 30 years of age. It is less common than primary dysmenorrhoea.
This may not start until your mid-twenties or later. It is unlikely to cease after childbirth. The pain is not restricted to “time of the month” bleeding and can occur throughout the cycle. Periods may become heavier and more prolonged, and intercourse may be painful. Secondary dysmenorrhoea can be a sign of other conditions, including pelvic infections, which may need urgent attention. If you start to experience period pain as an adult you should not hesitate to consult a GP.

Other than these two types, you can have menstrual irregularities. Menstrual irregularities are common abnormalities of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Menstrual irregularities include a variety of conditions in which menstruation is irregular, heavy, painful, or does not occur at all.
Common types of menstrual irregularities include:


  • Amenorrhea (when a teenager does not get her period by age 16, or when a woman stops getting her period for at least three months and is not pregnant)
  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual periods)
  • Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual periods)
  • Oligomenorrhea (menstrual bleeding occurring more than 35 days after the last menstrual period, that is, less than 10 periods a year)
  • Polymenorrhea (menstrual bleeding occurring less than 21 days after the last menstrual period, that is, more than 12 periods a year)
  • Spotting (light irregular vaginal bleeding or vaginal bleeding between periods)

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